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Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 19, 2014 at 1:28 PM

Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan: How would it work to make cyclists pay?

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

The Seattle City Council approved a Bicycle Master Plan this week. The city would need to find about $20 million a year for 20 years to pay for it, editorial columnist Jonathan Martin wrote in an Opinion Northwest blog post Wednesday. How could the city raise the money?

Here are seven ideas submitted by readers. Add your voice to the conversation in the comments section or submit a letter to

Pay a registration fee

The state currently registers all motor vehicles, trailers and vessels. Why not bikes?

Where I grew up, we had to pay a registration fee when we purchased a bike. The retailer put a sticker on my bike with a registration number.

So let’s start with requiring a special registration fee (based on value) on all adult-sized bikes, new or used, sold by a licensed retailer in Seattle or King County. The retailer would collect the fee and submit it with the purchase info, including name, address, etc., to the state Department of Transportation.

Current owners, those who purchase from private parties or over the Internet have one year to register their bikes or face being fined.

Dick LaPorte, Seattle

Licensing wouldn’t be practical

Again with “how can we stick it to those bicyclists?” Jonathan Martin said it himself: It’s been tried elsewhere and failed.

So since it’s failed elsewhere, let’s try it here? What would happen: Another level of bureaucracy would be created, which would, no doubt, cost more to set up and maintain than it would ever generate in revenues.

And to whom would we issue licenses? Seattle residents? King County residents? State residents? What if someone brings a bicycle from Vancouver, B.C., or Portland? How do we make them pay?

Dennis Schroeder,Vashon Island

Require an annual bicycle tab

A bicycle-tab fee could be included with the annual car-tab fee. Instead of receiving one car tab, registered drivers would receive two.

I would introduce bike tabs as a positive step for all riders who genuinely want to see Seattle’s Bicycle Master Plan become a reality. A $20 or $25 annual fee for each bicycle wouldn’t be too much to ask.

Pricier tabs with customization would be an idea for down the road. Custom tabs could include a vanity sticker for additional revenue.

Bicycle licenses worked well in Colorado. I grew up there, and they were an annual routine — you’d get them renewed just like any other license.

Teresa Mosteller, Seattle

Use property, gas or sales taxes

Forget the city taxing bikes to build bike lanes. That’s way too clumsy and would drive business away.

Fund bike lanes by a property tax, gas tax or sales tax. Consider it a fee for getting cars off the road, creating quicker travel time for cars and investing in keeping people out of hospitals.

With limited space on the roads and growing populations, highways get crowded or expanded and road projects cost more than bike lanes.

Bob Kulwin, Langley

Set up tolls

I would suggest a toll system, like the Good To Go pass used on Highway 520, that charges the rider, and tolls any adult rider using the main trails — especially during commuting hours.

Brian Kennedy, Seattle

Cycling brings money into Seattle

Although I do not live in Seattle, I spent a good portion of my life there, and visit often. I am also an avid cyclist, so I never miss a chance to ride with local Seattle clubs when I visit.

I believe the answer to the question of where to find funds for building Seattle biking infrastructure is obvious:

Jonathan Martin’s blog post pointed to the benefits of commuter cycling, particularly in attracting many businesses to locate in Seattle. There will likely be tax revenues gained as a result of this attraction.

A portion of this newfound tax revenue should be dedicated to fulfilling the Bicycle Master Plan rather than deposited to the general fund. Everyone wins.

Jim Newman, Durango, Colo.

Cyclists already pay a fair share

I think that bicyclists are already paying.

I believe that a substantial majority of cyclists in the city also own cars or rideshare. So these cyclists are paying motor vehicle-related taxes and fees despite the fact that they periodically choose to ride their bikes on the roads instead of driving their cars.

These cyclists also live here, so whether they own or rent their housing, they are paying property-related taxes. All, or almost all of us, who cycle on area roads are already paying the very taxes that those who would tax cyclists think we are somehow avoiding by not driving.

Craig Bray, Seattle

Comments | More in bicycling | Topics: Bicycle Master Plan, bicycling, Bob Kulwin


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The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

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